This poem, by Or Tzedek alumnus Benjamin Jacobi, was performed at the 2011 Freedom and Justice Seder organized by JCUA and Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation.
Is where the heart is.
And the thing I find the hardest
Is to stop the cycle once it’s started,
So let’s start this
Should not be merely a privilege, but a right.
But beyond where you lay your head at night,
It’s community, it’s relationships, and for this is what we fight. Displacement can cause destruction—the level of which is awesome.
To be uprooted is to suffer, a tree with no roots will never blossom.
It carries with it not merely change of location,
For a look at what it does let’s focus on incarceration:
Every sentence is life despite judge’s intended.
A prison term isn’t like you’re life’s suspended
Put on pause, press play once the term has been served.
No, the world spins while one sits—tell me is that what’s deserved?
A year, is not a unit of time, it’s a
Unit of missed birthdays, weddings, lessons, moments, memories
Or opportunities, promotions, new friends it’s these
That are impossible to take into consideration.
This is my dissertation
I can offer no consolation,
Until one provides an alteration.
The system’s position on this is abdication.
One example not enough? You require further explanation?
Every child needs a father as a teacher
Role model, guider, preacher.
Father is a verb because it implies action not a noun,
But it’s hard to hear dad’s lessons from halfway across town.
They say love knows no bounds and can overcome any distance
Well three buses, visiting hours—you’ll encounter some resistance.
And if you manage to do well—overcome this, it doesn’t end there.
Once time is served, the debt is paid (in theory) I’m aware.
But in practice it’s not so, no one ever claimed it’s fair.
If you think it is then you may fail to grasp this.
If you believe it’s fine and dandy then my point you might have miss-
Labeled is what you become once you are released.
Blacklisted is a given, peoples’ assumptions never ceased,
Like “Oh should we give him a chance, I heard he was in prison.”
They fail to see the whole image. You’re
Distorted as if through a prism.
Locked up young, but what if it’s not your fault perchance.
You were just standing near—victim of circumstance.
Wrong place, wrong time, broke a rule you didn’t know existed,
And for this you must be permanently afflicted?
We come here, with our hearts thoroughly believing, in justice. Injustice, is what this
And this just in:
Those who watch but fail to act are guilty of the deepest sin.
But that’s not us. We are here because we realize how necessary it is
To plant one’s roots before one can
And all the things that can hinder this.
So to us, to progress, to the future,
Which is only that much brighter because we shine that much harder.